What’s bad for painkillers is good for TENS devices

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine – A recent recommendation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could provide a big boost to the makers and providers of alternative pain management therapies like TENS.

Concerned about the abuse of narcotic painkillers, the FDA wants to reduce by half—to 90 days—the supply that patients can get without new prescriptions. The agency’s move is no surprise to Ryan Moore, a physical therapist who is vice president of sales for Roscoe Medical’s Pain Management Division.

“We’ve always had the mantra: We want to give pain relief without pills,” he said.

There’s no doubt pain management is a big business. The latest estimates: Nearly half of Americans (47%) report having at least one type of chronic condition and, seeking relief, they’re spending about $2.6 billion annually on over-the-counter pain medications.

The FDA’s recommendation draws new attention to alternative pain management therapies—everything from TENS devices to laser therapy to braces to hot and cold packs, says Mariah Griffith, vice president of sales and marketing for BioMedical Life Systems.

“This is a huge market not being served by HME providers,” she said.

With Medicare limiting coverage for prescription TENS devices, companies like Roscoe and BioMedical have expanded their offerings to include over-the-counter TENS devices, a prime retail opportunity for providers, they say.

“The whole industry is moving that way,” Griffith said. “If reimbursement changes on one product, and you have a good diversity and have a retail offering, you’re going to be in a good position.”

Moore hopes this latest move to curb abuse of painkillers will be the push that shoves providers into alternative pain management products. Providers new to the market will want to focus on carrying a range of products featuring the latest technology, he says.

“The ones that are making it successful aren’t going with their grandfather’s TENS unit,” he said. “It’s the modern unit that’s digital and easy to use.”